Like many, we always dreamed of escaping the suburbs and raising our children on a small farm in the country. But what type of livestock would we build that life around? For a long time we thought about horses, and we even looked at cows, but when we were introduced to the magical alpaca, we knew they were the perfect family livestock.
Alpacas are beautiful, peaceful, intelligent, and inquisitive creatures. They communicate with a calming hum, and their fleece can be as soft as cashmere.
But why are Alpacas the perfect family livestock compared to conventional livestock?
They are kid-safe (and adult-safe).
Unlike other livestock, alpacas have padded feet (like a dog) so their kick isn't as damaging as that of a horse. They're also smaller animals, lightweight, and easier to control. Because they are prey animals, alpacas are more submissive and typically don't attack. If they're not happy, they run the other way. They also have only bottom teeth, with an upper palette, so their ability to injure through biting is far less likely. Small children can easily lead a halter trained alpaca without any concerns.
They are known as the ideal small-acreage livestock.
Alpacas require much less acreage than most other farm animals. Being one of the most efficient eaters, they don't require much forage. Most recommendations suggest around 5-10 alpacas per acre.
They are easy to keep
Alpacas rarely overeat and don't require a tremendous amount of care. Because the alpaca's region of origin has limited forage, they are among the most efficient utilizers of food on earth. Which means feeding an alpaca can cost about the same as feeding a dog. Given an ample supply of water and quality grass, they could survive with little intervention.
Less pasture maintenance
Unlike other livestock, alpacas have padded feet that aren't as destructive on pastures. Because they only have bottom teeth, they also don't eat pasture grasses down to the root like horses or cows. This reduces the amount of pasture maintenance required to keep grass growing.
Alpacas share a communal dung pile, and it seems once one goes they all line up behind the other to take their turn on the bean pile. Cleaning up after your alpaca is very easy, due to their digestive efficiency, their solid waste looks like large rabbit pellets, or black beans, and is primarily composed of indigestible fiber. This means, unlike other livestock, they are relatively smell free and their beans make fantastic fertilizer.
Their poop doesn't stink
Well, of course this is subjective, but because alpacas are such efficient eaters, their poop pellets are lower in organic matter than other livestock and doesn't have quite the unpleasant odor. In fact, many have likened it to a sweet smell that is pleasantly country.
Unlike llamas, alpacas usually don't spit
Alpacas will usually only spit at other alpacas, and even then, mainly if fighting over food.
They are interesting and interactive
With alpacas, you can do as much or as little as you want. However, if interested, you can shear your alpacas once a year and process the fiber into things like socks, hats, and scarves. There are groups that take the fiber and spin it into yarn, while others take the yarn and knit into finished goods. 4-H groups and others also train their alpacas for obstacle course competitions. There is no end to the learning and activities that can be done with alpacas.
It can be a fun and competitive adventure
There are local, regional, and national alpaca shows where you can meet other alpaca owners, and engage in friendly competition. It's a great way to meet people and educate children on the various uses of their livestock.
Your kids can run the entire farm.
Because of everything mentioned, you can teach your kids to run the farm without being concerned for their safety. It's a wonderful way to teach them discipline and how hard work can lead to a positive outcome.
Amazing tax advantages
Because alpacas are considered livestock, you can benefit from special tax advantages while maintaining a herd on small acreage. The Section 179 write off for farm equipment and buildings will allow you to deduct many large expenditures (including the purchase of your alpacas) all at one time during the first year put in service. Many other farm expenses can become deductible as well. Those same tax advantages do not apply to horses, and cows require much more acreage per head.